15 Observations: Minnesota

Imani Cross (Stewart Photography)

Topics: Seniors, T-Magic, defensive tone, Kenny Bell, J-Turner, and more.

LINCOLN, Neb. - 1.) The seniors get to play. Rex Burkhead, Tim Marlowe and K.C. Hyland all were hurt, so didn't play, but all 26 other seniors played in Nebraska's 38-14 win on Saturday night.

This year's group of seniors marks the first full class Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini recruited to Nebraska.

"Special group of guys. They mean a lot to me--each and every one of them," said Pelini.

2.) Coach Osborne went out the right way. It had been rumored for weeks that former head coach Tom Osborne would lead the team out on to the field one last time, but no one would confirm the news. The team didn't even know until a few minutes leading up to the game.

"I asked Coach to do it. He was reluctant to do it, and I thought it was the way it should be," said Pelini. "I told him it'd mean a lot to me and to the football team and that it's the way I think it should be. Not just for us, but I think the fans wanted to see him walk out of there one last time. I think it's obvious why that should happen."

Stewart Photography


3.) Nebraska's defense steps up on third-down. You can say it was because of their efforts on first and second down, but Nebraska only allowed one first down out of 13 attempts by Minnesota on Saturday.

"All of those guys are fast. They're quick and athletic. All of them are in the right spot at the right time," said wide receiver/quarterback MarQueis Gray. "They know their jobs like the back of their hands. They just did a good job today."

4.) Martinez draws major praise from Coach Kill. It seems like I say it every week, but this week might have been Taylor Martinez's best game in the passing department.

The junior connected on 21-of-29 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, throwing NO interceptions. Very efficent.

But what I will remember most of Martinez on Saturday was his ability to lead the offense at the line of scrimmage. Martinez did his homework this week. Quite a few times he was able to get Nebraska into different plays after seeing the way Minnesota's defense was lined up. He took control of the offense on Saturday and in the process earned major praise from Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill.

"I think that he knows their offense inside and out. I have coached this game for 30 years and I watched him last year, and I think the coaches had a lot to do with it. But I think he is doing a lot on the line of scrimmage on his own," said Kill. "I think there is probably a trust factor with him and the coaches. He has a tremendous amount of confidence while throwing the football, which is built with his years, plus you add his quarterback coach (Tim Beck), so he has put in a lot of time.

"We certainly know he has tremendous athleticism, but I think he has command of the offense and has good people around him."

6.) Martinez's accolades keep piling up. Early in the first half, Martinez passed Zac Taylor's career passing record at Nebraska. Martinez is quickly become the most prolific statistical quarterback in Nebraska history.

7.) Imani Cross is killing my fantasy team. So if you know me well, I'm a sucker for fantasy football, especially on the college level. I'm in the semi-finals in one league this week and I started Ameer Abdullah for the second straight week as my back. The problem is, for the second straight week freshman Imani Cross scored more points than him. Cross only had 18 yards on 10 carries, but once again had a two-touchdown performance. The Georgia native now has six touchdowns on the year.

8.) A true home-field advantage in 2012. For the first time since 2001, Nebraska went undefeated at home this season. It is the 41st unbeaten and untied home season in school history - NOW THAT'S IMPRESSIVE.

"That's special, right there, but I was saying this yesterday, this team is special," said Nebraska senior safety P.J. Smith. "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if we don't finish the season off right. That's how it goes, right there. It felt good to finish off undefeated at home, but we've got another game and after that, we've got another one and after that, we've got another one. So we better keep going."

9.) I'm sorry, Jamal Turner is not a punt returner. For weeks fans have been wanting to see more of the electric sophomore in the punt return game. I for one thought it wasn't a good idea. I think it's a role he will grow into over time, but he dances too much. Fans saw it on the random spin move with a defender more than five yards away. In addition, I think there are steadier hands back there.

But I will say this about the Texas native. Another great game as a wide out. He seems to really be coming into his own the last few weeks. The sophomore had six cathces tonight for 83 yards, once again forcing defensive coordinators to focus on the three-headed monster of Bell-Turner-Quincy Enunwa.

"Jamal is really developing and he's really starting to grow into the position. The beautiful thing is, I think there's still a lot more out there," said Pelini. "There's still a lot more things he's going to get better at, and that's going to come with experience."

10.) Nebraska really set the pace early. On Minnesota's first two drives, the Huskers forced three-and-outs – stuffing them on 3rd & 1 and 3rd & 2.

This could have been one of those instances where Nebraska came out too pumped up: It was senior day, Tom Osborne walked them out on the field, a win was needed to stay in control of the Legends Division.

Kudos to Nebraska for setting the tone early on defense.

11.) Did you project Abdullah to have a 1,000? I sure didn't, but the sophomore has stepped up beautifully in Rex Burkhead's absence.

12.) Next up, Kenny Bell. The sophomore wide receiver told reporters in the preseason his goal for this season – to get to a 1,000 yards. Right now he's at 789 on the year.

No Nebraska receiver ever has collected over a 1,000 yards in a season, and Bell only needs 211 more to get it done – a number that seems possible with likely three more games left on the schedule.

Right now Bell is third in the Big Ten in receiving yards and second in touchdown catches. I have to think his play will earn him first team All-Big Ten receiver. It's been frequently debated whether Nebraska can attract top wide receiver talent across the country to Lincoln – Bell could help the cause.

Stewart Photography


13.) Compton keeps moving up. Another ten tackle performance from the senior Saturday. He now currently sits No. 17 all-time on the career list. With a career 230 tackles, another 10 next week could put him into 14th on the career list. With three more games likely, let's pretend he gets 25 more tackles. It's probably a fair number to project. That would get him a spot inside the top ten.

14.) The pushups a few weeks ago helped. Ever since the Michigan game, the Nebraska secondary has taken opportunities it was given and capitalized. Both Daimion Stafford and Stanley Jean Baptiste had interceptions on Saturday.

15.) Maher could have made the 62-yarder. I watched him drill a 65-yarder in practice. He had the leg for it the second quarter and I wish they would have let him try it. He had the wind going with him. It would have been a new school record.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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